Government Shutdown: What Will Happen to Google's Quantum Computer?
A quantum computer chip can process information several orders of magnitude faster than an ordinary silicon computer chip.
Credit: Erick Lucero

Earlier this year, Google announced it was teaming up with NASA to launch a quantum computing laboratory to build more accurate search engines and investigate the potential of artificial intelligence. But, the ongoing federal government shutdown may jeopardize the ambitious project.

Google's D-Wave Two quantum computer is being housed at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., which was shuttered on Oct. 1, after a partisan standoff in Congress held up passage of a crucial budget bill. The D-Wave system was started up days before the government shutdown, but with NASA employees unable to return to work, the status of the project is in limbo, according to Wired.

"The lab is shut down, but the computer itself is still accessible and working," Google spokesperson Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi told Wired. Still, it is not known whether the search engine giant is actually using the machine to conduct experiments at this time.

Meanwhile, most of NASA's 18,000 employees are furloughed during this lingering impasse."There is zero ongoing testing from NASA's standpoint," Ames union president Lee Stone told Wired. "What's being lost here is all of the time that we would be using this cutting-edge technology. That is certainly disappointing at best and outrageous at worst."

The effects of the shutdown continue to ripple through the scientific community. Nuclear labs across the country, including California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, are preparing to furlough workers and shutter experiments.

Last week, the National Science Foundation announced it would cancel its entire U.S. Antarctic research program until the government is up and running again.

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